Part 1

For the rest of this summer, primarily Sunday evenings in July and August when I speak, I plan to direct us in an in-depth Bible study of the church. The lessons will be taped so if you miss one and wish to listen to it you can. The lessons will also build on each other. It is very important for you to bring your Bibles for you to read and see for yourself as we study.

My objective is to help us all see what scripture actually says as we deepen and broaden our understandings about the church. Some things you will find very familiar. Some things may challenge you to stretch your minds and understandings. For the bulk of the time we will focus on what the writing we call Acts tells us.

  1. The first chapter of Acts and the last chapter of Luke overlap and intertwine.
    1. The gospel of Luke ends with Jesus' ascension and the book of Acts opens with Jesus' ascension.
      1. The same writer wrote both writings.
      2. As Luke closes, I want you to see something.
        Luke 24:44-49 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
      3. Look at the text and note these things.
        1. Even after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus' eleven disciples (who would be apostles) did not understand that Jesus was the actual embodiment, the living fulfillment, of everything God promised in the entire scripture we call the Old Testament (the law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms).
        2. Jesus opened their minds so they could understand what the Scripture said about him.
        3. They could understand what had just happened--the betrayal, the arrest, the trials, the mockery, the death the resurrection--only if they understood the scripture.
        4. None of what happened to Jesus fit their past expectations.
        5. They knew the scriptures, but they did not understand God's meaning in scriptures.
        6. They were to be witnesses (1) to what happened and (2) to the fact that the happenings fulfilled scripture (few if any Israelites understood God's meaning in Scripture).
        7. "The promise of the Father" Jesus promised would come upon them was the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
    2. The events of Acts 1 amplify what the close of Luke 24 gave in brief, summary fashion.
      1. Jesus eleven disciples are thoroughly confused.
        1. They never expected the betrayal.
        2. They never expected the arrest.
        3. They never expected the guilty verdict.
        4. They never expected the mockery.
        5. They never expected the crucifixion.
        6. While Jesus' resurrection gave them joy, they had no idea of what it meant.
        7. Jesus' appearances to them for 40 days after the resurrection were a time of confusion and bewilderment for these men.
      2. So in their confusion they ask Jesus' a question.
        1. Though they are dense about what is happening, their question is a very good question.
        2. It is a question that addressed a "hot topic" in Israel and reflects their struggle to understand what is happening.
        3. "Lord is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 2:6)
          1. Israelites had a lot of interest and many expectations associated with the promised restoration of Israel.
          2. Anything that could connect events with God's promised restoration of the kingdom drew immediate, intense interest.

  2. For hundreds of years Israel was promised the restoration of the kingdom, and the nation yearned for it to happen.
    1. But it had not.
      1. Think with me historically for just a moment.
        1. Just a comparatively few Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, and they were not free.
        2. Their descendants were not free when Alexander the Great built his empire.
        3. Their descendants were not free when they were controlled by Egyptian rulers.
        4. Their descendants were not free when they were controlled by Syrian rulers, in fact life was horrible and the nation suffered greatly.
        5. Their descendants did have freedom for about a hundred years when they successfully rebelled against the Syrians.
        6. But that period of freedom ended when the Romans took control.
      2. What God had promised Israel had not yet occurred. I want you to see why Israel expected God to do something special and connect that expectation with Acts 2.
        1. First, turn to Jeremiah 33:23-26.
          And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, 'The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them'? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. Thus says the Lord, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.'
          1. Night and day will cease to exist before I reject the descendants of Jacob and David.
          2. I will restore their fortunes, I will have mercy on them.
        2. Now turn to Ezekiel 39:25-29.
          Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord God.
          1. I, God, will restore Israel's fortunes.
          2. I will do it because I am God.
          3. When it happens, I will not hide my face from them, but instead I will pour my Spirit on them.
        3. Now turn to Ezekiel 36:22-32.
          Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord," declares the Lord God, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. I am not doing this for your sake," declares the Lord God, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!"
          1. I, God, will prove myself because I am God.
          2. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit.
          3. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a real heart.
          4. I will put my Spirit in you.
        4. Now look at Ezekiel 37:1-6
          The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord God, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.' Thus says the Lord God to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.' "
          1. When Judah returned from Babylonian captivity, they were like bones that had been dead so long they were dry.
          2. God had the power to make those bones complete, living beings.
          3. God would restore Israel.
    2. There were six signs taken from a study of scripture that were accepted as evidence that God was keeping His promise to restore the fortunes of Israel.
      1. It had to begin in Jerusalem.
      2. It would include the Jews dispersed among the nations.
      3. It would involve a king who was a descendant of King David.
      4. It would include the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
      5. It would include all Israel.
      6. It would have a sense of mission to all nations, not just to Jewish people.
    3. Look with me now at Acts 2.
      1. This happens in Jerusalem in an assembly of Jews on one of the three most important holy days in Israel (see Deuteronomy 16:16).
      2. Verse 5 says there are Jews living in Jerusalem from every nation.
      3. Verse 9-11 names other Roman provinces from which Jews have come.
      4. Peter's sermon connects the crucified, resurrected Jesus with David.

  3. Acts 2:12 says the audience of Jews were amazed at what was happening, and asked (in our words), "How do you explain this?"
    1. And Peter begins his explanation by citing Joel 2:28-32.
      1. Why?
      2. God was keeping His promise to Israel: the restoration had begun.
      3. Those who heard understood exactly why Peter cited a scripture focusing on God's outpouring of His Spirit.
      4. Do you?
    2. Peter's conclusion based on scripture, eye witness experience, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: the crucified, resurrected Jesus is Lord and Christ.
      1. Some 3,000 Jews agreed and were baptized in order to receive the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit. (Also see Acts 5:32.)
      2. While we see that as an enormous number, it was a very small number compared to the Jews in Jerusalem at that time.

As we close, I want you to notice an extremely important fact: in all that happened, God was keeping a promise to Israel. It is with that point that we will begin in the next lesson.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 7 July 2002
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